Digital Conflict

By Kevin Coleman

Blog archive

Egypt’s revolution reveals cyber policy void

 We witnessed history as the Egyptian people revolted and brought down a seated president and his regime. Their revolt had basically a zero-dollar budget and relied on publicly available resources and volunteers to accomplish this feat.

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites coupled with text messaging, e-mails, websites and Internet service providers became the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the revolutionary movement. The Egyptian intelligence community relied on the same public information assets as their source of intelligence about what the revolutionary movement was planning and when the events and actions would take place.

The defense and intelligence community worldwide has talked about the blur between military infrastructure and that of an adversary, and this is a great example that will surely be studied and written about for years to come. In the midst of this revolt, we saw two businesses interject themselves and provide alternative access points for the revolutionaries command, control and communications after the Egyptian government blocked Internet and cell phone communications.

Consider this. Private businesses in two different countries took sides in this conflict and initiated direct actions that supported the revolutionaries. Given these actions and looking ahead, could private-sector technology providers be considered cyber arms dealers? Does this make them potential targets because of the communications infrastructure they provide? Should there be regulations coordinated by the State Department that provide guidance on these complex matters? Might the opposing side of a conflict retaliate against the country where these businesses reside?

When it comes to digital warfare and digital protests, commercial products and service providers fall in the white space between cyber arms dealers and private sector infrastructure providers and that is a precarious position. Digital conflict in the global commons of cyberspace, whether military or political, has not been thought through at this level. Perhaps it would be good for this to occur before the next event.

Posted by Kevin Coleman on Feb 17, 2011 at 9:03 AM


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